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Swedes warned to 'brace for war', with Scandinavian country set to join NATO this year amid Russia tensions
10 January 2024, 17:40
Sweden’s civil defence minister has warned citizens that they could soon be taking up arms, bringing an end to 210 years of peace, with the country expected to join NATO later this year.
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Carl-Oskar Bohlin gave a rousing speech in which he urged citizens to join voluntary defence organisations following the Scandinavian country’s expected integration into NATO this year, as tensions with Russia rise.
Sweden is expected to join the defence alliance by July, subject to current member countries Turkey and Hungary approving their application. It comes after neighbour Finland, which borders Russia, also joined in April.
Joining NATO would offer Sweden extra security from the alliance, but fears are growing that Russia could attack member countries like the Baltic states - which could draw fellow members into the conflict.
Speaking at Sweden's annual 'Folk och Försvar' (Society and Defence) conference in Sälen last weekend, Mr Bohlin warned that the country's 210-year peace could soon end.
He added that the idea that peace "is an immovable constant" is "conveniently close at hand."
But Mr Bohlin said that "taking comfort in this conclusion has become more dangerous than it has been for a very long time.
"There could be war in Sweden," he said. "The world is facing a security outlook with greater risks than at any time since the end of the Second World War.
"Are you a private individual? Have you considered whether you have time to join a voluntary defence organisation? If not: get moving!"
It comes after Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson warned on Monday that an armed attack against Sweden "cannot be ruled out," citing the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.
He said this showed that "the world has become more dangerous than it was just a year ago".
The UK-based charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) said that the world saw the highest number of civilian casualties killed or injured by explosives in more than a decade in 2023.
Mr Jonson added: "War can also come to us. These serious times require clarity of vision, capacity to act and persistence - clarity of vision to understand that Russia's goal remains the eradication of a free Ukraine and creation of a Europe in which ‘might is right’ with buffer states and spheres of interest."
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Western countries dragging their feet on giving more aid to Ukraine would embolden Russian despot Vladimir Putin.
Donations to the war effort remain a divisive issue in the US, and a €50 billion (£43 billion) EU package is stuck in the political back-and-forth of Brussels.
Ukraine is 'winning' says Defence Sec as he pledges continual support
Sweden is among the countries that have donated the most weapons in the war effort, having committed to a €1.8 billion (£1.55 billion) package last summer.
Mr Zelenskyy urged allies to continue their support, warning that Putin "is not going to stop" and claiming that "he wants to occupy us completely". The Ukrainian president said Russia would seek to occupy other European countries next.
He added: "And sometimes, the insecurity of partners regarding financial and military aid to Ukraine only increases Russia's courage and strength".
Mr Zelenskyy warned: "Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova may be next," adding that: "He [Putin] won't finish this [war], until we all finish him together".
Addressing everyone from ordinary citizens to government officials, Mr Bohlin did not say that war in Sweden was imminent, but urged everyone to have "situational awareness" that "must be translated into practical action," adding "if there is one thing that keeps me awake at night, it is the feeling that things are moving too slowly".
Ukraine has come under intense shelling in recent weeks, with Russia launching one of the largest ever aerial attacks of this war towards the end of last year.